The Zune media player was among Microsoft’s least successful products of all time, despite the fact that it offered features at the time that Apple’s iPod did not, such as wireless song sharing and support for a larger number of formats.
Considering that the Zune wasn’t actually a terrible media player, why did it fail commercially? According to former Microsoft executive Robbie Bach, who lead the company’s entertainment devision through the rise of the Xbox, as well as through the days of the Zune, the reas0n is simple: It was nothing more than an attempt to chase Apple, and it came to market far too late.
If I had hindsight, 20-20, and could do Zune over again, we would skip portable media players completely. […] The portable music market is gone and it was already leaving when we started. We just weren’t brave enough, honestly, and we ended up chasing Apple with a product that actually wasn’t a bad product, but it was still a chasing product, and there wasn’t a reason for somebody to say, oh, I have to go out and get that thing.
The Zune may have seen a great deal more success if it were released sooner – although the device also suffered from other issues, such as poorly written desktop software that was confusing to use, and no Mac version of their sync software – which is significant, considering that many iPod users also used Macs.
It’s a bit sad, really. I owned a Zune back in the day, and I actually liked it. If Microsoft would have played the game a bit more proficiently, they may have given the iPod a bit more competition – and the iPod may have gained features like song sharing and support for additional formats as a result.